Worst U.S. TB outbreak in decades was not made public

Despite a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report detailing the worst U.S. tuberculosis outbreak in 20 years, Florida health officials continued to push for the closure of a local TB hospital.

The report was sent to health officials by Robert Luo of the CDC on April 5, which was nine days after Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill to shrink the state's Department of Health. The bill also required that the A.G. Holley State Hospital in Lantana be closed down, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Instead of revealing the report to key decision makers, health officials in Tallahassee ordered that the tuberculosis hospital be closed down six months early. The CDC report was only revealed to the public when a reporter traveled to Tallahassee directly to demand records of the report in person in late June. The report still has yet to be widely circulated.

If the decision makers in the Florida government saw the letter earlier, they would have known that 3,000 people in the past two years may have been in close contact with contagious individuals at Jacksonville's jails, outpatient mental clinics and homeless shelters. The outbreak has been linked to 13 deaths and 99 illnesses. The outbreak is far from contained and the same strain has appeared in other parts of the state, the Palm Beach Post reports.

In a spreading outbreak, the cost of treatment for TB can quickly rise. Treatment for active TB includes a cocktail of three to four antibiotics for six months or more. The cost to treat an uncomplicated case of TB is approximately $500. Treating a drug-resistant strain costs more than $275,000 and takes up to two years on medications.